Since the advent of Viagra in 1998, decreasing erectile function has become known and treated as “erectile dysfunction” (ED). However, individual men’s understandings of ED, and its subsequent treatment, are diverse and reflect their individual social contexts. This talk presents findings from research with 250 older, working class men in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Despite local stereotypes of men as sex-obsessed “machos,” most study participants rejected ED drugs and did not understand erectile function change as a medical problem. Instead, they collaborated with wives and physicians to frame this change as a physical prompt to stop acting out youthful forms of manhood centered around penetrative, often extramarital sex, and to shift to what they saw as a more mature form of masculinity focused on the home and emotional bonds with family.
Emily Wentzell is an Assistant Professor in the University of Iowa Department of Anthropology. Her research combines approaches from medical anthropology, gender studies and science and technology studies to examine sexual health interventions’ gendered social consequences in Mexico and the US. She is the author of Maturing Masculinities: Aging, Chronic Illness and Viagra in Mexico (Duke University Press), and is currently researching the Mexican couples’ experiences of participation in longitudinal, observational HPV research.